Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Appellant claims the police beat him


I am reading the Missouri Supreme Court's 1997 ruling when it upheld Reginald Clemons' conviction for murder and his death sentence. In this passage, the court is reviewing Clemons' claim that his confession should not have been considered because St. Louis police beat it out of him.

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Appellant claims the police beat him, rendering his confession involuntary.

At the suppression hearing, appellant testified that the police officers conducting the interrogation beat him about the head and chest and slammed his head against the wall. The detectives involved categorically denied that any physical contact occurred. Appellant's initial attorney in this matter testified that he visited appellant in a holding cell at police headquarters the afternoon of April 8th, some 14 hours after appellant's interview had concluded, and observed that the right side of appellant's face was swollen.

However, Warren Williams, a friend of appellant's family who is employed as a police officer, visited appellant at the request of appellant's mother and saw appellant literally minutes before appellant's attorney arrived. Williams testified that he did not observe any sign of injury.

The next day, April 9, at appellant's arraignment, the presiding judge ordered that appellant be examined at the emergency room at the Regional Hospital. According to the hospital records, appellant was diagnosed with myalgia [pain in one or more muscles], mild myositis [inflammation of the muscles] and a swollen right cheek.

Viewing this evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling, we find sufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding that appellant's confession was voluntary. The trial court had the opportunity to judge the credibility of the witnesses and obviously found the state's witnesses' testimony more credible than appellant's.

While there was additional testimony from appellant's family that appellant's face was swollen, all of these observations were made some 48 hours or more after appellant's interview and confession. The evidence, including the hospital records, simply does not demonstrate either when or how appellant incurred any injury. Nor does it establish that an injury actually occurred at the hands of the police officers conducting his interview.

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Did you get that? The judge arraigning this guy the day after he was interrogated thought he looked so bad he sent him to the emergency room. And there is reasonable doubt that he sustained those injuries during the interrogation?

Nowhere in Clemons interrogation is he asked where he got any injuries - because if he had injuries going into the interrogation, that would have been used against him as evidence that he had been involved in foul play on the Chain of Rocks Bridge. But the Missouri Supreme Court ruled his having injuries coming out of police interrogation does not establish "that an injury actually occurred at the hands of the police officers conducting his interview".

The State of Missouri has scheduled an execution for Reginal Clemons on June 17.

1 comment:

Torchandtonic said...

This is the problem with the death penalty. Listen to ANY of the poor saps that were in prison for 20, 30 40+ years and are now freed because the police lied, a witness lied or DNA evidence proved them innocent (well, at least not guilty of said crime)...as the St. Louisian who was released last year (forgot his name) after serving over 20 years wrongly convicted said: EVEN if ONE person, who is innocent of the crime gets put to death by the State, that is ONE too many. What if that ONE person was you? Or your daughter? Or your son? Our system is too damn corrupt to be in the business of killing folks.